Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada—we celebrate a little earlier than our neighbours to the south, where it’s Columbus Day. It seems to me that Americans are very firm about which day they should celebrate Thanksgiving (i.e. on the Thursday that is Thanksgiving Day) while most Canadians I know are pretty flexible about the date. Usually, we do the turkey on the Saturday or the Sunday of this weekend, not the Monday. This year, because I’ve been at the Novelists’ Ink conference and got home late last night, we’re going to have our Thanksgiving dinner next weekend.

I am, however, feeling quite grateful today. At the conference, I saw a lot of friends, made some new ones, learned a great deal and had a wonderful time. I had lunch with some readers from the area, too, which was wonderful – and made me grateful for all of you who read my books. I stayed offline for the week that I was away, and that had exactly the result I’d hoped for—I have a lot of new ideas and stories to be told. I picked up a LOT of seashells and walked at least once a day on St. Pete’s beach (which is beautiful).

I understand a little bit better why those who live in hurricane areas are pretty relaxed about hurricanes—Nate sailed up the Gulf of Mexico, not all that far from us, and we had a little wind, some clouds, and the tide came in higher. I learned that it was called a “king tide”  because there was a full moon and a tropical storm within proximity, pushing more water into the shore. I thought there would be no shells on Sunday morning, because the surf had been crashing so hard, but I was very wrong. I had an awesome shelling morning and brought home far more than usual. (Mr. Math said “of course, you did.” :-)) I’ll sort them out and share a few pix later in the week.

And of course, coming home made me feel grateful, too. (There’s nothing like coming home, is there?) I have a big list of things to do, am both relaxed and inspired, and ready to dive in. If you’re expecting a reply from me on something (anything) I’ll be going through all my correspondence this week and will get to your message. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, do you do it on the actual date or are you (and your family) more flexible?

So, tell me today. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, do you do it on the actual date or are you (and your family) more flexible? What are you grateful for in your life?


Home from NINC

Phew! I’m home again from the fabulous Novelists’ Inc conference, which was once again held at St. Pete’s Beach in Florida. It was – as ever – an informative and interesting conference, plus a chance to meet up with good friends and make new ones. I had a lot of good meetings, and will have lots of news to share with you in the coming months. While it was wonderful to spend the time to connect with friends, I could have spent another two weeks there, talking with authors I’ve only met online before.

©Deborah A. CookeThe beach makes this conference special – I tried to walk on it each morning, and again in the evening when the stars were so bright. I didn’t take any pictures this time, but we had the same sunny skies and warm weather as last year. Last year’s pix tell the story.

©Deborah A. CookeI did find some shells. There seemed to be more fighting conch shells on the beach this year. Last year, many were occupied by hermit crabs (like the one at right.) This year, most were still live conchs – and I saw several strike, which I’d never seen before. A little bit of research reveals that the Florida Fighting Conch, which is what I should have seen according to Wiki, looks a bit different. The shells (and conchs) I saw in St. Pete’s look like the West Indian Fighting Conch.

Here are the shells I found: three conch shells, all abandoned by their original residents and without new (hermit crab) tenants:Deborah Cooke's shells from St. Pete's Beach

I also met another visitor to the beach who was looking for shells for her son. While we walked along and chatted, I saw a piece of a lightning whelk that was about 3″ x 3″ that looked like part of a big shell. It was buried in the sand and there were a lot of broken whelks on the beach so I assumed this was another. All the same, I dug out this one, only to discover that it was almost intact – and HUGE! It was about 8″ across. It was pretty much a sphere – although the stem was broken off. I’ve never seen one so big, and gave it to her for her son. (I think she might use it as a planter in her garden. It’ll make a good one for some succulents.)

A friend and I visited the Salvador Dali Museum on the day before the conference began, and it was truly wonderful. The location is beautiful – we had a perfect sunny day – and I loved the design of the building. The visiting exhibit was the work of M.C. Escher, so it was well worth the trip to see it all.

Highland Heroes, a digital boxed set of Scottish medieval romances by Claire DelacroixAlthough I ended up being offline for the week, I found out on my way out the door that an interview I’d done with BookBub about creating multi-book single author boxed sets had been posted on their blog. It’s the result of interviews Diana did with several authors – I talked about my experience with Highland Heroes – and she pulled a tipsheet together from the various authors’ comments. You can read it on their blog right here.

Once the conference started, things got busy! On Thursday morning, I saw Susan E. Smith, who is just the most lovely person. I met her originally at Romancing the Capital in the spring, and will see her again there next year. (So can you, if you register for the RTC reader con!) She asked if she could feature me in her reader newsletter which was going out that day. Of course, I was thrilled to be asked – by the time we’d found each other again to do an interview, she’d written a post herself and sent it out. She’ll be visiting my blog in the next couple of weeks, so you can all learn more about her.

Right now, I’m glad to be home AND pretty much caught up on the laundry. The New Girl danced on her hind legs when I came home, then ran in circles of joy. Of course, Mr. Math spoiled her terribly when I was gone, but she just likes having the pack together again. I think she was too excited to know what to do next, but she’s been following me around ever since. 🙂 I was very excited to get home and get cooking again – I didn’t expect to miss it so much. I made fish tacos yesterday, then roasted a chicken for dinner. Yum!

Did you have a good week?

Meet Me in the Middle

I recently attended the Novelist’s Inc conference and learned a tremendous amount. Wow. This is a great organization for writers and if you are one, think about joining. NINC’s membership is restricted to multi-published authors, but authors of all genres of fiction can join. As a result, discussions are very informative and include perspectives from many different angles. They’re also at a more advanced level: there are no “how to format your manuscript” workshops – instead there are “improving SEO on your website” workshops. This most recent conference left my brain bursting with new ideas and possibilities. You’ll see some changes being made to my sites etc. over the next few months as I put these new lessons to work. But I also noticed an intriguing trend, and thought I’d talk about that today.

At this conference, there were two strong voices. Currently, there are many authors who have found great success by indie-publishing their works. Naturally, they are pretty enthused about this option, and – perhaps predictably – they believe indie is the only way to go. At the other end of the continuum were the various representatives of traditional publishing – which included agents, editors, and to some extent, authors continuing to publish by that route. The industry professionals were convinced that the only way to ensure a good product (i.e. a quality book) was to continue to publish in the traditional manner. Under this perspective, authors should not indie publish ever because they risk compromising the quality of their work.

What intrigued me was that we heard about one end of the spectrum or the other, with not very much about all the zillions of points in between. It’s not true that an author needs to choose either route to the exclusion of the other, so why is it presented this way? Is this a response to a rapidly changing and increasingly complex marketplace? Is it just easier for us to pretend that choices are simple? Or is it that the end points on a continuum are easier to define? Certainly the stakes are high for the various players: the successful indie authors have become advocates (if not evangelists) for their method of publishing. There is a level of affirmation gained by them in persuading others to follow their path. The strongest voices for traditional publishing tend to be those people in publishing who are not authors – like agents and editors – who don’t really have a place in the exclusively indie model. In a way, they’re arguing for their own survival in the future of publishing.

In reality, there are miles of space in the middle ground. There clearly will be authors who choose one option to the exclusion of all others, but I think they will ultimately be a minority. No matter what it is that you do, diversity is more likely to lead to stability. That’s true of authors and publishing, too.

In most of the writers’ groups that I belong to, there is a joke about me – whenever someone asks me a question about the business of publishing or about the craft of writing, my answer is often “It depends”. Or I might say that a particular issue is “squishy”. This is because I don’t see any absolutes in this business. (Actually, I don’t see absolutes in much of anything.) Making a living with creative work allows for the accommodation of different goals, characters and styles. We each have strengths and weaknesses, as well as different resources at our disposal. Even more, we all have different stories to tell, often in different ways.

So, what’s a good choice for me might not be a good choice for another author, and vice versa. That applies to publishing partnerships and to writing choices (like whether to include an epilogue in a novel). So, I believe that it’s not simple and that there are no easy answers. We each have to evaluate the options and choose what is best for us. Sometimes we’ll be wrong and can learn from that choice. Sometimes we’ll be right but swimming against the tide of the “right answer”. My answer is invariably not what the person who is asking me a question wants to hear – they want an easy answer, yes or no, do this or do that – but the ensuing discussion always gives them a better understanding of what they’re asking, maybe even of what they want. I hope it helps them to make better choices.

Additionally, different genres perform differently in each publishing model – beyond traditional publishing and indie publishing, we can add digital-first publishers or small presses as options for authors. In reality, there are many, many choices available. This is very exciting, and I don’t see any reason to dismiss any of those options in order to defend a choice that supposedly is right for everyone.

The other issue is that diversification is the key to stability, no matter what we’re doing. It works for stock portfolios. It works for books. I believe that a blend of different styles of publishing is going to give individual authors greater stability in the marketplace over time, even if all of those books are in the same sub-genre. Having full length novels with a traditional press, for example, and digital-first novellas with either a digital-first publisher or indie-published will increase the number of releases per year for the author, and also increase the visibility of the author’s work overall. The middle ground of mixing and matching from a buffet of choices is already being shown to work well, and I think it will only continue to gain strength. Of course, diversifying over different genres or sub-genres will only add one more level to that diversification, and even more stability to the author’s sales numbers.

At issue is that these two groups of advocates don’t have that perspective right now – they insist that authors need to choose one way or the other. Will they come around to my way of thinking and give the middle ground some love? We’ll just have to wait and see.

What about you? This isn’t just about publishing – thinking in black and white is a question of perspective. Do you find yourself drawn to extremes – this or that, right or wrong, black or white – or do you think a balance in the middle is best? Do you believe that the answer can change, as a result of who is asking the question? My answer to that is “It depends”!


I’m booked for two conferences this fall. It’s funny but they end up being back to back. I wanted to try something different in terms of conferences this year. Usually I go to RWA regional conferences or RWA National. Not this year. (Although as National is this week, I’m starting to feel some major conference envy for those who are going.) I’m not speaking, teaching or signing at either of these conferences, just going to listen and talk to other writers. It’s going to be pretty low key.

First up, I’ll be attending the Novelists’ Inc conference in White Plains NY from October 24 through the 28th. This is a writers’ group for published authors, and one of the conference organizers this year is Julie Ortolon. I attended NINC once – I’m thinking it was 1997 – so am looking forward to attending it again.

Immediately after that, I’ll be attending the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto, November 1 – 4. I’m quite excited about this one as I’ve never been to an SFF conf, and the featured speakers look awesome. Also, a friend of mine (who is also a writer) is flying in from the west coast to attend the conferences with me, so we’ll be able to catch up on all our respective news. I haven’t seen Jen for six or seven years.

I’ll also be at Word on the Street in Toronto on September 23, hanging out and around the Toronto Romance Writers‘ booth. It was a perfect sunny day last year and I had a wonderful time – plus came home with LOTS of books! – so I’m looking forward to this one, too.

Otherwise, I’ll be writing through the end of the year.